Italy is renowned for beautiful landscapes, delicious food, rich history, and an incredible artistic heritage. But it's rarely highlighted for its brilliant train network, overshadowed by its northern Germanic neighbours. Perhaps that's why travelling to Italy by train is still, somehow, a hidden gem of European travel.
Not only are trains from Paris to Italy efficient, modern, convenient and easy to book, but the journeys are enough to warrant a trip in themselves. Read on to discover just how easy it is to travel straight from Paris to Milan, Turin, Venice, Florence, and beyond. We've thrown in some helpful tips to help you on your way, although we're sure you won't need much convincing.
Paris to Milan
It couldn't be easier to travel between these two global fashion capitals by train. Thanks to the daily high-speed service operated by France's national train company SNCF, trains from Paris to Milan take as little as 7h 9m. This direct TGV service runs once every morning and once every afternoon. Taking the morning service means you can have the rest of the day to enjoy in Milan. The train leaves Paris Gare du Nord station at 06:29 and arrives at Milano Porta Garibaldi just before 14:00.
Another option for travelling from Paris to Milan by train is the overnight sleeper operated by Thello. You'll have the unforgettable experience of a lovely evening meal as the sun sets over the French countryside, then being lulled to sleep by the rolling train, arriving bright and breezy in Milan. Thello's sleeper service from Paris to Milan departs every evening at 19:15 from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving into Milan Central Station at 06:00 with a journey time of 10h 45m. You can book advance tickets for all SNCF, TGV, and Thello sleeper trains easily online and using our app.
Milan is full of glitz and glamour, but it's far from being all about high-end fashion boutiques and catwalk shows. This city has an incredibly rich history, from pre-Roman times into the Middle Ages, to the peak of its grandeur and influence in the 19th century. Reminders of this colourful past are everywhere, especially at iconic sites like the Duomo, Sforzesco Castle, Teatro alla Scala opera house, and the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery, the world's first shopping arcade.
But did you know that Milan is also one of Europe's best jazz cities, full of cavernous clubs and major international venues? It's also a fantastic food city, with every kind of eatery from Michelin-starred restaurants to street stalls and a wide range of international cuisines. For something a bit different, have a glass of wine in Leonardo da Vinci's old vineyard!
Paris to Turin
The route from Paris to Turin is served by the same TGV trains as Milan, arriving into Torino Porta Susa just west of the city's Centro district. The quickest train takes only 5h 37m. But there are compelling reasons to look beyond the daily direct TGV trains. One reason is the scenic alternative – Switzerland. TGV Lyria trains run every 2 to 3 hours between 07:00 and 19:00 every day from Paris Gare de Lyon to the Swiss cities of Basel (3h 03m), Zurich (4h 03m), and Geneva (3h 07m). These are beautiful scenic trips, combining the French countryside and rustic villages with the rugged mountain scenery of the Swiss Alps.
The most scenic route is from Paris to Geneva, which winds along the Haut-Bugey heritage line and crosses the dramatic Cize–Bolozon Viaduct on its way to Genève Cornavin station. From there you can take any combination of Trenitalia services through the Alps to Milano Centrale, then a high-speed Frecciarossa train to Torino Porta Nuova. The route over the Alps to Milan is also beautiful, and thanks to Frecciarossa, not only will you reach your destination the fastest way possible, but you'll also enjoy Italian gourmet dishes provided by the FrecciaBistrò catering service, as well as free WiFi, large leather armchairs and plenty of legroom and space for luggage. All these routes and connections can be booked as a single ticket from Paris to Turin, with a total journey time of 8 to 9 hours.
What to do in Turin
Despite its proximity to France, Switzerland, Austria, and Milan, Turin somehow remains under the radar for visitors to Italy. It has nowhere near the name recognition of other northern Italian cities like Venice and Milan, but it’s home to some of Italy's finest architecture, its most famous football team, as well as the global slow-food movement and an exquisite culinary heritage.
Did we mention that Turin's a ridiculously picturesque city, with Gothic spires and baroque boulevards backed by dramatic snow-capped mountains? Major attractions include the National Cinema Museum, the National Automobile Museum of Italy, the Royal Palace of Turin, and Juventus Stadium.
Paris to Venice
Venice is no place for trains – it's all water and canals, right? Not so! The city is served by a fantastic system of railway services, including high-speed trains from all over Italy and abroad. There are two major train stations in Venice – Venezia Santa Lucia station, located right on the edge of Venice's historic centre, and Venezia Mestre, Venice's commercial and residential centre on the mainland.
Paris to Venice is one of the most popular routes to take by train. By taking the TGV train from Paris Gare de Lyon, and changing at Milano Centrale, you can get from Paris to Venice in less than ten hours. A croissant in Paris and dinner in Venice? That's pretty impressive for a 700-mile land journey. Especially when all you have to do is sit there, relax, and enjoy the fast-changing views. If you prefer a much more comfortable ride, a direct daily sleeper train runs from Paris to Venice. The Thello sleeper service leaves Paris Gare de Lyon at 19:15 and arrives in Venezia Santa Lucia at 09:35. You can choose between standard shared-berth (4-6 person) compartments, secluded private (1-3 person) cabins, or a luxurious premium cabin with your own private bathroom and shower.
Venice hardly needs any introduction. One of the world's most romantic and beautiful cities, everybody knows about the winding canals, the gondola rides, the colourful Carnival, and the impressive canal-side skyline of St. Mark's Square. These are all on the list of things you should see in your lifetime, but they're only the very start of Venice's various attractions. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection and Galleria dell'Accademia are must-visits for art lovers, the seafood-centric market over the Rialto Bridge will entice dining enthusiasts, and the Jewish Ghetto is a charming historical neighbourhood. A little further off the beaten path, admire colourful canalside houses without the crowds at the Cannaregio Canal.
Paris to Florence
Thanks again to the TGV services from Paris to Milan, Florence is about 9 hours away from Paris by train. The fastest way is to get off the TGV service in Milan, then change onto the high-speed Frecciarossa to Firenze Santa Maria Novella.
If you want to spend a whole day in Florence, we recommend you take Thello’s night train service from Paris Gare de Lyon – departing at 19:15 and stopping in Milan at 06:00, you’ll be in Florence at around 08:00.
Tips when visiting Florence
Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and the heart and soul of the Tuscan culture. There's plenty to uncover beyond the world-famous attractions like the red-tiled Duomo, the medieval Ponte Vecchio bridge, and the artistic masterpieces at the Galleria dell'Accademia and the Uffizi Gallery. Cross the Arno river and stroll around the Oltarno quarter, Florence's traditional working-class neighbourhood. You'll get a much different vibe from the city centre here, with its quaint, winding alleys and calm green spaces like the Rose Garde – one of the best spots in Florence for sunset. A major university city, Florence is also full of amazing aperitivo bars, where you can grab a bite at seriously cheap prices, away from the main hotspots.
So there it is – a comprehensive guide on how to visit four amazing Italian cities quickly, easily and comfortably by train from Paris. If you're convinced that this is the way to travel, start browsing train times, routes and ticket prices on our website. Or book a ticket now, and start counting down the days to your own enchanting train trips to Italy.